Vladimir Chekasin is a cornerstone figure in Lithuanian modern jazz, a master of various reed instruments, enriching his instrumental arsenal with keyboards, voice, elements of theatre, and anything what is necessary for his unique, large-scale polystylistic performances. He is also composer, theatre and cinema director, and exceptional teacher.
Vladimir Chekasin was born in Ekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) in 1947. From the age of six, he studied violin and piano, later clarinet and saxophone. He is a graduate of the Ekaterinburg Music Academy.
In 1971 Vladimir Chekasin made his international debut participating at the international competition of young musicians in Prague, where he received First Prize and subsequently recorded an album "Setkani" (A Meeting) with Rudolf Dašek, Klaus Koch, Imre Mozi and Laco Tropp. Incidentally, it was the first international record ever with participation of a jazz musician from the Soviet Union.
In the same year Vladimir Chekasin moved to Lithuania and started playing with the celebrated Trio GTch (Vyacheslav Ganelin - Vladimir Tarasov - Vladimir Chekasin). His later groups also enjoyed particular success: the Vladimir Chekasin Quartet, founded in 1981, and the Big Band of the Lithuanian State Conservatory (commonly referred to as the Vladimir Chekasin Big Band), founded in 1980. The latter was a winner of Grand Prix at the Autumn Rhythms competition in 1986, and was ranked the best in the former Soviet Union more than once, while Chekasin himself was no less favoured by critics, repeatedly receiving the title of the Musician No.1, as well as first positions in different categories until the demise of Soviet Union. Together with different groups, he toured almost all European countries, as well as the USA, Canada, Cuba, Japan, India.
Since 1975 Chekasin is active as a composer of incidental music. He wrote soundtracks for more than 10 films, among them "Taxi Blues" by Pavel Lungin, which was awarded Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, and "Bolero", which received First Prize for the music at the Post-Montreux '92.
Since 1994 Chekasin is involved as a composer, director and actor in the multi-disciplinary projects at the Central Artists House in Moscow, collaborating with the musicians and artists from many countries of the world.
Besides his creative activity, Vladimir Chekasin is a renowned teacher. He has created an original method of teaching jazz improvisation, the principles of which are summarized in the article "Operative Composition and Structuring", published in the papers of the pedagogical congress "Contemporary Improvisation and Jazz" held in Mönchen-Gladbach (Germany) in 1995. Since he started teaching at the Lithuanian State Conservatory and the Balys Dvarionas School of Music in 1975, Vladimir Chekasin has nurtured many present-day stars of Lithuanian jazz, including Petras Vyšniauskas, Vytautas Labutis, Gediminas Laurinavičius, Leonid Shinkarenko, Neda Malūnavičiūtė, Liudas Mockūnas, Skirmantas Sasnauskas, and others. Presently Vladimir Chekasin teaches at the Balys Dvarionas School of Music and the Vilnius College, and leads masterclasses throughout Europe.
In 2005 Vladimir Chekasin's achievements were recognized with the St. Christopher Prize of the City of Vilnius. He is also the recipient of the Golden Disc Award of the Lithuanian Musicians' Union and Birštonas Jazz Festival Award. In September 2013 he was honoured with medal "For Merits to Vilnius and Nation", and in October the same year – with the Vilnius Jazz Festival Award "For Contribution into Lithuanian Jazz Culture".
© Jūratė Kučinskaitė